How do you hold more butt?

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Every night at bed time, after I read to the boys, they watch a video with their father. The latest favorite is Meghan Trainor’s All About that Bass. My apologies for the fact that the song is now stuck in your head. Just start thinking like Taylor Swift and try to Shake it Off. Anyway, usually the boys just watch the images and listen to the music. But Corey has finally started actually listening to the lyrics.

Uh oh.

Meghan sings, “My mama she told me don’t worry about your size.”

(This is a big fat lie, which we can discuss another time.)

“She said boys like a little more booty to hold at night.” Corey pipes up and asks, “What’s booty?” I say, “Butt.” He replies, “How do you hold more butt?”

And I give the best answer of my entire parenting career. This answer should be framed and written about in the history books, touted on morning talk shows, and praised for all its glory. I say, “Uh..” And Damian immediately changes the subject.

There are more, er, interesting lines in that song, but I don’t think he picked up on them. Luckily Corey didn’t pipe up and ask, “What are skinny bitches?” What would I have said to that? I could have hit him with the literal definition. “Well Corey, they are underfed female dogs.” But then he would have no doubt hit me back with, “Why is she singing about skinny dogs?” It’s an out-of-control spiral just waiting to happen.

Oh, the joy of parenting. How do I expose them to social media and allow them to be part of the world without overexposing them? How much can I really protect them when they’re out of the house for so many hours a day? And what do I say now that they’re starting to ask me harder questions? It’s going to get worse before it gets better. They’re not even tweens yet! I guess I’ll just do my best, like everybody else, and hope I don’t screw them up too much.

In the meantime, I am secretly celebrating the fact that I get to watch pop music videos instead of Disney videos. Yay!

The Bar Scene in DC! (Not great if you’re 40 and married.)

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We spent the weekend in Washington DC celebrating Damian’s birthday, including a visit to the White House lawn. Well the fence, actually. Okay so we were way on the other side of the fence(s) with the other tourists and a lot of scary looking guards. But it was beautiful at night! I love this trip, mainly because DC is so close to us, but yet far enough away that I truly feel like we’re out and about. And there’s no laundry or chores to tackle. Here’s a little recap….

Friday we took the metro to Senator Barbara Mikalski’s office, where we picked up tour passes for the Capitol as well as passes to visit the active Senate and House galleries. Babs wasn’t in, but one of her lackeys gave us what we wanted. We checked into our hotel (the Wardman Park hotel by the zoo – we’d stayed there before), got some hummus from Mediterra, which has the BEST HUMMUS of my life! We relaxed a bit and then hit Joe’s Stone Crabs for dinner.

We’ve been to Joe’s many times in Las Vegas, but the one in DC is new. The story behind the restaurant is interesting. The original Joe’s is located in Miami, where stone crabs are pulled from the water, one claw is removed, and the crab is thrown back. The claw regenerates, and then the crab can be harvested again. We were interested to see if the place would look like the one in Vegas, and to discover whether the claws would taste better, considering that they are in season and fresh now, whereas we’ve always had them frozen in the past. The DC location looks just like the place in Vegas. Same decor, same waiters in penguin suits. We had oysters, crab soup, crab claws, and an excellent Chote du Rhone. We didn’t start dinner ’til 8:30, so I was DOA at the end and we just went to bed.

We got up at 7 the next morning, cleaned up, and hit my favorite breakfast place, Open City Cafe. I had an egg white omelet with spinach & tomatoes, cheese grits, and homemade wheat toast with butter and some amazing strawberry jam. And a giant mug of coffee that was so strong it nearly shot me out of my chair.

We hit the art museum next, and that was a totally cool experience on so many levels. First, there was a walk for HIV going on that morning, so all the roads were closed. We took the metro, so it was awesome for us – being able to just walk through the streets of DC with no cars around was like a “Beyond Thunderdome” experience. So totally cool. The museum itself was oddly quiet. Very few people were there. We visited Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cassat, and then noticed a special Degas exhibit that included two statues of The Little Dancer, so that was pretty exciting. For me.

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Then we stumbled upon another major special exhibit by Andrew Wyeth. I’d never heard of him, but his work was really striking. He was obsessed with windows. Obsessed. And he was able to create these incredible-looking airy tattered fabrics surrounding windows using only egg white, water, and pigment. He was also known for creating paintings that appeared to be both photograph and painting. Like this one old broken down house. I swear the boards appeared to be falling right out of the page, but the foreground was clearly paint. I wouldn’t want it hanging in my living room (too stark!), but it was fascinating. This is one of his most famous works, Wind from the Sea:

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Something I also found interesting was that a private collector gave a Vincent Van Gogh painting to the National Gallery THIS YEAR! Can you imagine having a priceless painting like that in your possession for so many years? I might die from the guilt of not sharing it with the world.

We did the Capitol tour next, and that was much better than I thought. I hate tours, but Damian wanted to do it, and doing the tour allowed us to see, via our incredibly-funny guide, parts of the Capitol that we would not otherwise have been permitted to see without getting arrested. So that was fun. I recommend it. The building is amazing. Inside the rotunda, the distance from floor to ceiling is so great that you could literally set the Statue of Liberty on the floor, and her torch would not reach the apex. From there, we walked to the Library of Congress, which was even cooler in person than in Nicholas Cage films.

That night we hit Old Ebbit Grille, where the special was lobster. I was just not hungry enough to eat a whole lobster, and frankly, I didn’t want to have to wear a big bib in public. I did, however, enjoy watching others crack these crazy lobsters. I had a fabulous shrimp ceviche and clam soup with some white wine, and Damian had trout. Mmm mm.

Then we made the mistake of going to a bar to watch the Buckeyes play Penn State. We found a place where alumni apparently go to watch the games in DC. I thought it would be great to watch a game with a bunch of Buckeye fans. Energy and excitement, you know? What I didn’t consider is that people in our age bracket just invite friends to their houses and have cookouts. Everybody was in their early twenties and interested in hooking up as much as watching the game. I felt so OLD. It was bad. Some dude handed me a bar stool and another one for Damian, saying, “Here’s a stool for you. And one for your boyfriend.” He’s my boyfriend. Now that is funny. But really, it was bad. We left at half time and finished the game on the HDTV in our hotel.

The next morning brought breakfast, check-out, the metro, and a celebration of the Kelehan Thanksgiving. But that is a story for another day…..

The Worst Day of My Life

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What was the worst day of your life? Everybody has one. Mine was 10 years ago today: October 15, 2004. I was in the first year of my marriage, practically a newlywed, pregnant with my first child. A boy. A baby boy I’d dreamed of having for years.

And then I had the 20-week ultrasound. “There’s something wrong with your baby’s heart.” More tests. “It’s a heart defect, and it’s a bad one.” The doctor who delivered the blow advised me to terminate. He led me to believe that my baby had no chance. Nobody has every said anything more horrifying to me. Ever. Not before. Not since.

Every year on this date I think about that time. And I’m thankful that it was the worst day. Because once that day passed, I found hope. And my baby did not die. That’s him in the picture above, squashed underneath his younger brother and being photobombed by our family cat.

So yeah, October 15,2004 sucked. But today didn’t, and I really hope that date lives on as the worst day in my life forever. If it does, then I’m a lucky lady.

An Update on the Heart Child

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Friends and family know that the heart child, Corey, is nine years old now and doing remarkably well, but for new people surfing in to “meet” my little source of inspiration, I thought it might be time to write an update.

Corey’s in fourth grade, five years post-Fontan, and in the 62nd percentile for height, 50th for weight. He’s huge! He eats more food than I do at any one sitting. When he’s a teenager, I’ll have to hit Costco and buy six chickens at a time. And not to brag, but he’s wicked smart. Ridiculously smart. Okay, so I mean to brag. He’s so smart! Let me give you some examples of his cerebral prowess.

1. He watched videos on youtube and taught himself to solve the Rubik’s Cube. He can now solve any traditional 3×3 Rubik’s Cube in a matter of mere minutes.

2. When he took the state assessment test in his elementary school, his results in math were off the charts. He scored well above not only the kids in his school, but all the kids in the county AND the state.

3. His last report card was straight As.

4. He has an affinity for cards, picking up new games and winning at them so quickly that I am afraid to expose him to his Uncle Dave, who was once a professional poker player, because if Corey picks up poker like he picks up everything else, look out! We’ll be mortgaging the house to pay off his gambling debts before he’s 10. Or buying a vacation house in the Keys. Could go either way.

5. He beats me at Monopoly regularly, and I don’t let him win.

That’s enough about Corey’s brain. It’s a great relief, I must say, for his parents. When he was diagnosed with a single ventricle in utero, we wondered if he would be below average. Or well below average. Or worse. When our PC said, “If he is meant to be an above-average student, he will be, regardless of his heart,” he was right!

Corey also plays baseball. And well. Soccer is out – too much running – but he’s got rockin’ hand/eye coordination, and those brains of his come in handy. You need brains to play baseball. Luckily I don’t need brains to watch him play. I just need beer and peanuts. Just kidding. About the peanuts. These kids might have a nut allergy! I would never expose them to peanuts. Ahem.

Right now Corey (and his heart-healthy younger brother) is all excited for the holidays. We will be bringing out our Halloween decorations today! And I am feeling the boys’ excitement. The 10th anniversary of Corey’s diagnosis is this month, and when that day passes, and I mark it (as I always do), it will be with a giant smile on my face as I watch my amazing heart child play with our Halloween toys and talk non-stop about wearing his costume, trick-or-treating, marching in the holiday parade, going to Aunt Vicki’s for Thanksgiving, seeing Super Magic Elf (or Elf on the Shelf) again, what he’s going to write in his letter to Santa, when we’re going to get the Christmas tree, whether or not Mommy is going to forget the carrots for the reindeer again……..

Top 10 Sources of Stress

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That’s the face I’m making on the inside right now, because I’m a giant ball of stress lately. If I were wound any tighter, I might just explode. My heart rhythm is all out of whack, I’m grouchy, I’m not sleeping well, and really I’m just an all around good-time girl these days. Not. If I ask you to lunch you might want to have an excuse ready.

Why am I such a stress ball, you ask? The kids just started a new school year. And I just started a new job. Which I am sure will be wonderful and I will love. Eventually. Once I get used to it and stop freaking out. Which could really happen anytime now, thank you very much. I subbed last year, and I loved every day of it. But now I’m not a sub. I’m it. And I want to do right by these kids.

I’m teaching preschool, you see. Two-year-olds. 30 of them. And they are wickedly cute. But they also poop and scream at me because I’m some weird lady that their moms have dumped them off with for reasons unbeknownst to them. Here’s the sentence that I’ve said more than any other over the past 3 days, “Mommy will come back for you, I promise, but right now, let’s look at this Mickey Mouse toy!” Then they look at me like I’ve got three heads until they see that I’m not lying – I really have a Mickey Mouse toy and they can really play with it if they can stop crying for 3 minutes.

New job stress. I know that’s what this is. But somehow it’s not making my ability to deal with the stress any easier. And to be fair, two of my initial classes were like a dream – nobody cried, and everyone seemed very happy. I’m hoping that, as time passes and I get to know the kids and they get to know me, everything will even out and be all right again. Because what’s more important than making a positive difference in the life of a child?

And here’s that stress list I promised you. According the non-profit organization HCCUA, these are the top 10 sources of stress for humans. Right now I’m rocking number 5 and number 8 (although Corey is doing remarkably well, the fear of what the future holds never really leaves me):

1. Death of a Loved One- Even if a death is anticipated, such as with a prolonged illness, those people who loved the individual can experience extreme stress.

2. Childhood Trauma- People who are sexually, psychologically, and/or physically abused, or who have been abandoned while young, may carry these stresses into adulthood.

3. Divorce- All the aspects of a divorce, from personal to financial to loss of family and friends, contribute to these forms of stress.

4. Finances- Although this is easily understood as a stress factor, bankruptcy and mortgage foreclosures seem to increase the human stress levels even more.

5. Employment- Those who are employed may find their work, hours or co-workers cause stress, while those who are not employed find their circumstances without income and the job searching process also cause stress.

6. Poor Health- The medical crisis or being ill, escalating medical costs, terminal illness, becoming incapacitated, not having medical insurance, and not having access to medical services all contribute to causing stress.

7. Personal Relationships- If there are troubling issues with family, extended family, partnerships, friends, children, or lovers, these are all large contributors to stress levels.

8. Chronically Ill Child- The parents, family, and friends of chronically ill children all experience stresses caused from circumstances surrounding the child’s illness, and the personal and financial obligations derived from the chronic illness.

9. Pregnancy- Infertility, lack of a relationship when wanting children, adoption, premature births, unplanned and/or unwanted pregnancies, complications during pregnancy, and pregnancies caused from sexual abuse and rape are high human stressors.

10. Danger and Fear- People who live in war zones, crime infested areas, and in isolated communities can experience daily stressors that accumulate over time, while others who are victims of personally invasive crimes, such as cyber bullying and identity theft, are also at risk for high stress levels.

My Book, Raising a Heart Child: A Parent’s Guide to Congenital Heart Defects

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….has been published! When Corey was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at 20-weeks gestation, I yearned for a book like this one. I wanted to know what his journey would be like, in as much detail as possible, from the moment of diagnosis through every test, every treatment, every appointment with with doctors/dentists/therapists. I wrote this book for everyone who has been touched by a child with CHD. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends – all of us. May it offer help, hope, information, and comfort to those who need it.

Here are the links to all the distributors carrying my book. Click on any of them to see the book or read free samples:

Amazon, AmazonUK, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Oyster, Kobo, Blio, FlipKart, Smashwords

  Continue reading

Vegas Baby!

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Last week we went to Las Vegas to visit my in-laws. And may I just say, what a great place for my in-laws to live! I mean really – you can’t pick where your family lives, but if you could, I think I’d go with minutes off of the Vegas strip. The whole week was a blast thanks to not only the location but also the fabulous hosting abilities of my husband’s father and his wife. Many thanks to them!

The trip began with a 5-hour flight with Team Crazy. Enough said about that. We spent a leisurely Saturday afternoon once we arrived, and then we kicked it up a notch with crab picking on Sunday. Crab picking in the desert – I’m still not over the thrill of that. And the crabs were fantastic. But they’d have to be, right? Because the crabs you get are the ones hardy enough to survive the flight. Add some Fat Tire, and now you’re cooking with gas. I love crab picking – it’s such a fun social event. Corey is all in, too – he calmly and expertly picked 3 extra-large crabs all by himself.

Monday was a day at the water park. Wet ‘N Wild. The ladies begged off of that event – can’t imagine why when there are giant water slides which mimic such fun pastimes as being flushed down a giant toilet – and went shopping. Ah, shopping. The ladies came home with full shopping bags. The boys came home bronze-skinned, blonde-haired, and totally zonked out from their day in the water and sun. They were still zombies the next morning – score!

We hit the Mac King Comedy/Magic Show with the kids on Tuesday afternoon, and it was a riot! Damian found a super deal on the net, and we scored tickets (normally $40 each plus a 1 drink minimum) for $15 apiece, including a drink voucher. Sweet! My father-in-law spotted the usher a $10, and we got seats in the front row. Out of all of us, Corey really wanted to go on stage. Damian really did not. Guess who went up? That’s right! My husband. Still, he was a good sport and played along. Mac King did some funny card tricks with him, stole his watch, and offered him a Budweiser bottle (which he later signed) – it was all good fun. The boys certainly loved seeing their daddy up on the stage.

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Above is a shot of us on our way to Jersey Boys later that night, which I loved. We were NOT the demographic. In case you’re not familiar with the play, it’s all about Frankie Valli when he was coming up – his time with The Four Seasons, his history with his family, etc. I learned a lot, recognized all the songs, but what I was most blown away by was the sheer vocal capability of the kid who play Frankie. He literally had a guitar, a bass, a keyboard, a drum set, and a horn section consisting of SIX guys behind him, and he was blowing them all away. Amazing.

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This is a shot of the Bellagio atrium at night. I am always amazed by the beauty and creativity of the floral arrangements and sculptures. We wandered about in there for a bit after Jersey Boys, then we stopped in Sensei for a lobster sushi roll and a glass of malbec. And people watching. Always a treat to people watch in Vegas. For me, anywhere really. I’m like that.

The next night was our night of freedom. Woot woot! Every year the grandparents graciously offer to watch the boys for 24 hours, and Damian and I take full advantage of this opportunity. This year we stayed in the Venetian. I’d never stayed there before, and it’s around the location we like best on the strip, so I was excited. Damian used a trick he’d learned on the net (perfectly legal, of course) to score us some upgrades, including a pool/strip view on a higher floor, as well as no extra resort/early check-in fees. A round of applause for my brilliant husband. This is the view from our room.

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That night we went to dinner at Nobu, the famous Japanese place on the strip in the Hard Rock Hotel. It was FABULOUS. WARNING: I am about to describe this meal in enough detail to put you into a food coma right in front of your computer. If that’s not your thing, skip ahead to the next paragraph. So, we did the chef’s tasting menu with a bottle of pinot noir, and everything I ate was like nothing I’d ever had before. We started with a seaweed wrap that was shaped like a cone and filled with sprouts, carrots, avocado, and a heavenly ginger/peanut sauce. Next was a sashimi paste in the shape of a disc served with wasabi/scallions/caviar over a bed of banana leaves with a Japanese pear as a palate cleanser. After that, a plate of sashimi in a long thin dish, from left to right a piece of ahi tuna, a piece of mackerel, a piece of fish that I can’t remember (but it was wildly presented with the skin on), and then a mini sponge cake as a palate cleanser. Onward to 3 pieces of sashimi served sideways as the outside of a tower, in the center was a salad with a creamy cilantro sauce – also amazing. Next it was 3 pieces of yellowtail served in a bright lemon sauce with ginger and scallions (maybe my favorite cold dish). On to the hot dishes – first there was a hot piece of buttery melt-in-your-mouth sea bass with a bbq/teriaki sauce – heavenly good. Then a plate of super-thin rare kobi beef served sizzling on a plate of diced peppers & onions. I was ready to wave my white flag, but then out came a bowl of miso soup with a giant scallop in it. And finally – finally! – dessert – which was a chocolate lava cake topped with white chocolate and served in a wooden box with green-tea iced cream next to it. Fantastic fantastic fantastic!

The next morning brought our annual breakfast visit to Mon Ami Gabi in the Paris Hotel. We sat right on the strip, where the people-watching before 10 AM is killer, and we enjoyed wonderful french food and strong coffee. Damian had waffles and strawberries, and I had a ratatouille omelet with fruit, fresh toast and home-made jam. As we watched the people stroll by on the strip, at first we thought we weren’t going to see anything interesting. The weather was mild, and a lot of joggers were out and about. What’s up with these health nuts on the strip? I mean, really. Lots of tourists with coffee cups passed by and people-watched US as we ate! What’s up with that?

But then our luck started to change. We saw a dude double fisting two open bottles of Budweiser, some guys who’d clearly been up all night and were strolling by with beer cans, a guy smoking a doobie, and finally a bride and groom. Yes! My quota was filled. As was my coffee cup. Fun.

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The other highlight of the trip, outside of all the fantastic food and wine we ate and drank with my in-laws, was the giant Ferris Wheel – the High Roller. This thing is a beast, offering non-stop motion and killer views of the city. Here are my guys enjoying the heights together. Oh! And I nearly forgot the Pinball Museum! Heaven for Corey with row upon row of pinball machines from all different eras, all supporting the Salvation Army.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience as always. Except for Sharknado 2. I survived it, but I don’t recommend it. I recommend all the rest of it, though! Can’t wait for next year.

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